Sunday, July 18, 2010
Boston Celtics: NBA All-Time Starting Fives
To address this, I’ve put together an all-time starting five for each NBA franchise (I’ve omitted the Charlotte Bobcats), consisting of players who suited up in at least 200 games (a bit of wiggle room was used here) for a franchise. I tried to adhere to a strict C, PF, SF, SG, PG line-up, not just 2 guards, 2 forwards and a center – though this rule was bent on occasion.
I didn’t invent a convoluted, John Hollinger-esque formula to determine these line-ups – this is based on statistical productivity with some consideration given to the era in which a guy played, and contribution to team success, with presence during high points in franchise history and “face of a franchise” status playing a big role. Many results are as expected, but some forced me to stare at the numbers and admit that my initial perception had changed.
Rather than go nuts and give you 29 starting fives to consider in one sitting, I will post these one at a time, over the next month. We’ll start with teams of the Atlantic Division. Have fun reading and debating. Whether you agree or think I’m an idiot, don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m eager to hear your opinions.
Leading off this series is the Boston Celtics. As a lifelong Lakers fan that grew up in L.A. in the 1980s, there are a handful of guys here that are very easy for me to hate, but with their talent and toughness, there’s no way to avoid respecting them.
PG– Bob Cousy (18.5 ppg, 37.5% FG, 80% FT, 5.2 rpg, 7.6 apg in 917 games)
Cousy’s resume speaks for itself. He was an All-Star in all but one of his 14 seasons with the Celtics, First-Team All-NBA 10 times, collected a half-dozen championship rings and the 1957 MVP, but his spectacular – and, at the time, revolutionary – ballhandling and way he led the break made him a legend. Also, more important than anything he ever did on the floor, Cousy stood at the back of teammate Bill Russell in the face of segregation and blatant racism at a time when it was neither easy nor popular to do so.
SG– Sam Jones (17.7 ppg, 45.6% FG, 80.3% FT, 4.9 rpg in 871 games)
If Russell is regarded as the ultimate champion, Jones cannot be far behind. As impressive as the statistics and achievements may be, his role as crunch-time scorer throughout the Russell years is the true foundation of Sam Jones’ legend.
SF– Larry Bird (24.3 ppg, 49.6% FG, 88.6% FT, 37.6% 3PT, 10 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.7 spg in 897 games)
It should be noted that this is a particularly strong position, featuring not only Bird, but Paul Pierce and Celtic legend John Havlicek as well. While Pierce (22.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.8 apg in 884 games) and Havlicek (20.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.8 apg in 1,270 games) both hold their own statistically, and Hondo’s 8 rings must be considered, Bird was the unquestioned leader of the 1980s Celtics and is THE starting SF for the Celtics.
PF– Kevin McHale (17.9 ppg, 55.4% FG, 79.8% FT, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg in 971 games)
A additional Celtics PF note: there’s no doubt that Kevin Garnett has played some excellent ball in his time in Boston and was the defensive and inspirational leader of the 2008 title team, but did you know his numbers in 197 games with the C’s (16.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg) actually fall short of those of the immortal Dino Radja (16.7- 8.4- 1.3)?!
C– Bill Russell (15.1 ppg, 44% FG, 56.1% FT, 22.5 rpg, 4.3 apg in 963 games)
In addition to Russell, the Celtics have featured a pair of noteworthy big men – Dave Cowens and Robert Parish – with multiple championships on the resume, either of whom would qualify as the best big man in the history of most franchises. Not only does Cowens have the statistical edge (18.2 ppg, 14 rpg, 3.9 apg), but he and the aging John Havlicek kept the Celtics afloat in the 1970s and served as the bridge between the Russell and Bird eras. Meanwhile, the Chief put up some numbers himself (16.5- 10- 1.5 bpg in 1,106 games), and was a huge part of the Celtics Big Three of 1980s, winning three titles.